23 July 2006

You're a daisy if you do...

...I'm a daisy and I will!

What just happened here?

That's the question of the day. And it's a valid one, maybe even one I've been avoiding like a writing deadline on a topic I have no interest in, because I knew the answers wouldn't be so forthcoming or painless to revisit. But I've spent a lot of time looking back. And I absolutely needed to do just that.

I stay very busy, and that is quite by design. It's the whole uniquely human coping mechanism called "denial". Now, it's not been so much a question of denial because, truth be told, I am the one who decided it was time to throw the towel in and move on, but that should not for one-second be mistaken for an action that was impulsive, frivolous or made on a whim.

The weeks leading up to my recent split were painful, confusing and comprised of some of the most unpleasant days I've ever experienced. The past few weeks since the break-up have been spent reliving the last, wheezy moments of life in a relationship that was almost pre-destined to fail.

It's been easy to stay busy - since the split of 24 June, I have had a lot of things on my plate and I've placed many of them there because I kind of figured out, after months of working a gazillion Sudoku puzzles, that when I am busy working them or living my life with lots of tasks and appointments competing for my attention, not to mention a cadre of friends determined to keep my mind on what is and what might be as opposed to what never really was, I've had hardly any real time to examine the pieces and try and understand how it all fell apart.

When a relationship, particularly a marriage, ceases to be, it's a death. Something that once held a lot of promise and was steeped in hope and optimism, just plain didn't make it. What I've been doing these past few weeks is very similar to what it's like when someone you love dies - there is the initial shock, the wake, the funeral, the visits and arrangements and managing of details such as opening new bank accounts, taking that ridiculous hyphen off my name and even changing the signature on my E-mail settings. There are things that demand immediate attention and that's a good thing, because I wasn't ready to look back quite yet - it would be way too painful and I would hurt, possibly cry and eventually become angry - and of course I KNOW I have to walk through all of those steps before I arrive at the threshold of the door to acceptance. Duh!

In all fairness, however, I grieved the demise of this relationship many weeks and months before its final hours. The last three weeks before it all went south, I felt sort of like someone who's been told by the doctor that someone precious is basically brain-dead and it's just a matter of pulling the plug. The EEG's, the CAT Scans, the thorough search for any possible signs of life have been exhausted. But as we all know, such a barren vegetative existance can stretch on for days, weeks, months and even years. Sure, there are always the occassional stories of miracle recoveries, patients who have been in a coma, death seemingly only a power surge away, who actually come back to tell the tale. But that's a rare event, probably on a par, statistically speaking, with winning the powerball lottery on the same day you're struck by lightning...for the third time.

These days, I find myself rearranging my clothes in a closet that suddenly has a lot more room, and "a lot more room" takes on a life of its own because many things suddenly become more spacious - the furniture, my driveway, the dining room table, and my bed. Even the attic now has room for more junk.

And yes, even my name is suddenly shorter. I never truly was a hyphen kind of woman and maybe that hyphen was subconsciously essential because there were things that never felt quite right. Or maybe I just liked the sound and appearance of Susie Parker better than Susie Perry or Susie Parker-Perry. Who knows?

But after the crowd disperses, and the guests take their leave, and my daughter boards a train back home to Manhattan (she only flies if it's a European Itinerary), life settles into a strange routine - strange in that something or, more to the point, someone is missing. There is a vacuum - an empty space - a bare spot that used to be taken up by a whole person and whether a break-up is inevitable or premature and unnecessary, when someone moves out, space is created and you have to readjust. There's just no way around it. Like the elephant in the living room that everyone pretends isn't really there, you can only look the other way for a finite period of time.

When my kids were small and it was time for a booster injection or an unannounced flu vaccination, they would initially protest and then beg for a few minutes to get ready and steel themselves. I usually gave them a minute or two so they would feel as if they had some control over the proceedings and then, in spite of the repeated protestations that they weren't ready yet, I would nod that it was time. Of course, all that extra pre-shot time did was allow them to become more tense and deal with the dread a minute or two longer, when in reality, the pain of the injection was never as bad as their imagination lead them to believe, and it was over with before they knew it. They were always so pleased with themselves following the shot - relieved beyond belief to have THAT over with, and proud of how brave they were. However, before they arrived at "I'm glad that's done!", they had to experience the sting of the needle. There was no way around it!

It feels very similar to what I feel right now - the last of the possessions are no longer in my home and if you were to walk through the rooms of my house, you would never know that anything was different. My bedroom contains only my clothes, the bathroom doesn't hint that there used to be two Sonicare brush heads where there is now one, and there are no photos on display that might hint a marriage had taken place, or that one had recently fallen apart. The tangible elements are erased, but it's those intangibles that aren't quite so easily swept under the berber carpet or disposed of with the kitty litter.

Even when it's the right thing to do - "when it's too late, baby, now it's too late. Though we really did try to make it...", as Carole King sang many years ago, it doesn't mean that it's not heartbreaking, painful, difficult and, while you can hide those photos on your Flickr Account and make a choice not to revisit them, you can't always turn-off the slideshow in your mind so easily. There is no software program with which human memory can be deftly and spotlessly eliminated. It's just as well, really, because if there was, I would probably need an updated driver and be on the phone to tech support for who knows how long?

And eventually, I find myself alone and finally with some time on my hands, and I start to look past the last gasping days of a marriage, and I remember that a year ago on this day, I was returning from a honeymoon on the Outer Banks. Life was exciting, exhilarating and everything felt possible. It was fun trying to figure out where to put wedding presents, what photos to place in frames, and it was even cool to find someone else's clothes in my closet because I stepped into a marriage with every intention and expectation of success.

Who knew that all of those "firsts", were also the "lasts"?

I look back at all of those things, "One year ago today, we went to the beach!", "One year ago today, we attended "The Lost Colony" and drove around for at least a couple of hours following the play, trying to find a local restaurant still open because we had forgotten to eat." One year ago today, we had bright yellow sheets, vases and vases filled with daisies still fresh from our wedding and there was a red VW Beetle in the driveway. We would come home from work, chop up a salad and head for our room, eat dinner and watch an old movie on Turner Classic Movies, and I'd usually fall asleep before the movie ended and have to find out what happened to Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant the next day. One year ago today, I had happily abandoned my practice of sleeping with the light on, because I was no longer sleeping alone and it felt right. One year ago today, I had hope.

One year later, I still have hope, but in something different. A future. And a determination to enjoy the present.

Of course, I miss the good things. In between the really dreadful and, ultimately, irreparable circumstances, there were nice moments, happy times and it was so grand stepping off the dating game. Never in one-million years would I imagine that one small year later, I would be back to sleeping alone with the light on, trying to figure out which remote works the DVD player.

Now I know that much of what was going on was a lot of smoke and mirrors, and that the facts and figures that were reluctantly turned over to me, uncovered the unwelcome reality that life as I knew it was about as stable as a house of cards in a hurricane. Hardly anything was what it was supposed to be, and try as I might to make sense of a lot of it, I couldn't explain it all away because I am, at my core, no fan of fiction and eventually life requires clear vision and the truth eventually wiggles its way out. Thank God it does!

This weekend, I have been going over events in my mind, recalling moments, revisiting photos, and playing scenes from something that looked so promising, but never really was. The experience of doing this has been, quite honestly, cathartic and I know I had to have this weekend and indulge these memories and look at them for what they were and, even more importantly, what they were not. I'm not exactly thrilled by the prospect of being single again, because I'd been single for ten really long years and I'd had enough dating for something like three lifetimes. I was never a fan of small talk, and nothing is worse than sitting through a four hour date that shouldn't have lasted more than five minutes. I hate that I'm going to have to be polite and gracious and find myself not returning phone calls again. I am not looking forward to dessert when I want to leave before the salad.

But what I would hate even more, would be to continue with a relationship that was about as stable as sand, and living each day in fear of what new, unwelcome surprises might pop up and take me down even more. What happened is much easier to deal with today, than it would be three, five or ten years down the line.

The other day, I asked Katie how long they thought it would be until I should consider dating - just how long should I be in mourning? She both laughed and said, ummmm...like...now. "It's over, too bad, so sad, get on with your life.". My friends and daughter tease me and nudge me forward, challenging me to get on with it - go have some fun, they say. I will in time, I promise.

I was married just long enough to know that I was in a doomed marriage, and reaffirm the fact that I still respect and love the institution and I refuse to ever give up on meeting the right man, at the right time, in the right place. I believe it will happen someday, and probably when I least expect it and I look forward to that, but for now, I am re-learning how to be single again. It's a lot like riding a bicycle, right?

Fortunately, in a dark sort of way, I have enough reminders not to expend too much time wasting the present by mourning the past; In the form of messages, e-mails and folks around me who, should I be completely brainless enough to wonder if this really had to happen, will swoop right in and reiterate for me that it absolutely did. "Look toward the future!" they will encourage me, and I will do just that.

But I am grateful for this weekend of introspection and even the happy memories that have conspired to make this a bittersweet collection of hours and a skip down a bizarre memory lane. I needed this time alone with myself, my thoughts, my memories, my regrets and my hopes for the future. I am glad nothing was so pressing that I would have, yet again, been too distracted from engaging in the inevitable. I am glad I have saved chats from the first innocent days of our relationship, the ups and downs of our courtship, and the queer wedding proposal that was wrapped in way too much drama. I am absolutely no fan of drama or histrionics and I try to avoid those who practice such traits whenever possible. I am glad for the memories and easily accessed written words, both sent and received, that reaffirm my decision and serve to jog my memory should I wonder if this was the right thing to do.

"Everything happens for a reason!", says Vaness and Katie. "If you hadn't got married, even though it didn't work out the way you had hoped, you wouldn't have been working here and you wouldn't have formed the bonds that are real and solid and dependable," and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to live many experiences that have made this a wild and crazy twelve months. As crazy as it sounds, even during this weird year, the positives are far ahead of the negatives. It's not even close.

I come from a family of stubborn, obstinate people who really do know how to adjust their sails in the direction of favorable winds, and I am so grateful they don't tolerate self-pity, because few things are more unattractive and unappealing. There are no victims here and I bristle when people express too much sympathy or offer too many condolences or go on and on about how terribly unfortunate it is that things turned out as they did. I find it annoying and while I am a lot of things, an object of pity will never, ever be one of them.

Thank God I work around strong women who feel the same. Thank God my genes are infused with resilience and a practical durability and would never support descriptions of "frail" or "weak". I am drawn toward strong people, and I come from the same. I may occasionally need prodded, but pampered and indulged? Thanks, I think I'll pass. I don't accept invitations to attend, nor do I host, pity soirees. Life is too short. I'll take laughing over crying every single time.

It's OK if you feel like expressing your sadness over the painful dissolution of a relationship - sure, go ahead and tell me that you're sorry it worked out the way it did, but then let it go. I certainly plan to and if I can, you might as well join me. And for both of our sakes, please don't tell me you saw this coming. I've never met anyone with dependable psychic abilities and the truth of it is, even if you didn't have a lot of hope that the marriage would endure, do us both a favor and keep it to yourself. It will save me from having to make an amends and it will save you from hearing what I might say that would necessitate the need for me to apologize to you later. Actually, a couple of people have made this remark to me, but I would most certainly wager they won't make that mistake again. I'm just saying...

I started this post with the question, "What just happened here?", and I've spent the weekend examining the answer: Newsflash!!!!! It failed - things weren't as they seemed and not all surprises are good surprises. Period. I hate that it happened but I am at peace with the decision. It couldn't be repaired. End of story.

Do we all stop living and be glum for the rest of our lives? Not a chance.

It's time to get on with it. I spent the requisite time mourning and grieving the demise of the relationship and, while I know it was necessary and a step not to be skipped, I have read enough old e-mails, old chats, and goodness knows more than enough bull shit and it's time to move forward because, frankly, I'm really bored with it.

"What just happened here?" I looked at things from every facet and they all pointed toward the same answer. It was unanimous. The tribe has spoken.

Maybe it's no huge mystery why I love daisies more than any other flower - they are strong, sunny, perky, sturdy and the darn things will grow and thrive just about anywhere.

Just like me.